The drought in Swaziland that its absolute monarch King Mswati III declared was over has devastated the kingdom, a United Nations report revealed.
About 300,000 people, one in four of King Mswati’s subjects, have been targeted for assistance because of the drought. Rural people are in danger of severe malnutrition and there is only enough water to supply the Swazi capital Mbabane for between one and three weeks.
The report that covers February 2016 stated that, ‘maize production fell by 31 percent in 2015, and is expected to be lower in the 2016 crop season, placing at least 300,000 people in dire need of assistance, specifically for food and water.’
The report issued by the Office of the Resident Coordinator of the UN Country Team in Swaziland said, ‘Nearly one-third of the rural population has a high expenditure on food, thus having little capacity to cope with the combined effects of production shortfalls and increased market prices, and can quickly fall further into food insecurity. Swaziland has seen an increase of food insecurity in the country with many households unable to eat three meals a day.’
It added, ‘Acute malnutrition rates have increased by 2.5 per cent from the average of 3 to 5.5 percent [of the population].’
The report stated, ‘The Hawane Dam, which feeds the capital, Mbabane, stands at 17 percent, enough from one to three weeks only. The city has started water rationing for the first time in its history.’
The Swazi Government declared a national emergency on 18 February 2016, only weeks after King Mswati preached to his subjects that God had saved Swaziland from the drought.
Now, the Swazi Government is asking for international assistance to pay for drought relief. The United Nations estimated donors would have to raise US$64 million for Swaziland.
The irony is that the bulk of this money will come from countries that are multi-party democracies. King Mswati rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch and political parties are banned from taking part in elections. Groups advocating for multi-party democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The King and the Government he hand-picks often decry multi-party democracies and advocate their own ‘monarchical democracy’ as a preferred model of governance.
The UN report stated, ‘Ninety percent of Swaziland’s sugar cash crop relies on irrigation, which has significantly been hampered by the rationing of water. Sugarcane harvests, which accounts for a staggering 21 percent of Swaziland’s GDP, has been hit hard, spelling trouble for government finances and possible service delivery.’
The report added, ‘The reduction of water has impacted the education of children as (especially urban) schools depend on flushing toilet systems; but even in the rural areas, existing boreholes are running dry. In all 189,000 learners and 8,157 teachers and support staff has been affected nationally of which 23,633 learners and 1,654 teachers and support staff are from around Mbabane, according to recent assessments.
‘The situation also puts almost 197,157 students, teachers and workers nationally, at risk of water borne diseases and malnutrition, due to the water, sanitation/hygiene conditions. Another main concern is the contamination of water which can increase the number of water-borne diseases in the country.
‘The country has one of the highest prevalence of HIV-infected adults (26 percent of people aged 15-49). Food insecurity in the country affects anti-retroviral (ARV) intake as ARVs are meant to be taken with food and water. It also affects access to medical facilities as some people are unable to make the journey to the facilities due to illness, weakness or lack of finances.’
SWAZI KING’S DROUGHT BLUNDER